Rachel Merz, volunteer.
“We need more chocolate eggs. I’ve just put the Peeps in all those baskets. How many bunnies do we have? Forty, plus all of those in that bin. Oh my god, look at these baskets aren’t they cute!”
They are at it again. The Peace Island Volunteers are gathered in Anne Benedict’s basement amid bins of stuffed animals, stacks of baskets, piles of pastel grass, and squads of chocolate bunnies.
Easter is not far off and with it the annual P.I.V. Easter Basket Sale in support of the Cancer Care Center at Peace Island Medical Center. The pressure is on to produce not just any baskets, mind you, but carefully curated one-of-a-kind spectacular Easter Baskets. Everyone loves to make the baskets for kids, filling them with toys, games, books, and candy. But that’s not all. There are baskets with kitchen supplies and deluxe foods for cooks and just in case you know someone who would like a spa experience there are baskets with luxurious soaps, bubble bath, and scented candles. All these items and the baskets themselves are gathered by the volunteers. Some things are bought new and donated, others (think antique stuffed animals or cheerful pottery) come from the back of volunteers’ cupboards or are prize findings from thrift shops – again, donated by the volunteers.
Anne Benedict is the epicenter of all this activity. She calls the basket-making gang, “The Bunnies,” and is brilliant at appreciating each person’s special talent and generating an atmosphere that is fun and productive amid the chaos of ribbons, plastic fire trucks, and cellophane wrapping. Anne keeps a running list of what is in short supply and puts out the call for “more kids’ books” or “healthy treats”. She arranges permission for displaying banners and signs in town. She remembers which Bunny has a birthday this week and coordinates the transport of hundreds of baskets to the Mullis Center for the sale. And Anne is passionate about supporting PIMC. Bette Cantrell is Anne’s partner in this creative production, bringing to it her design expertise learned while she worked as a window dresser for Bon Marche and she has the best bow-tying skills west of the Rockies. Bette often acts as the “Chief Fluffer”, the one who puts the final touches on a basket. Fritzie Vitulli also stars in this role, adding her design sense and generous donations. Relative newcomers to PIV, Yvonne Bowman and Nancy Moen have joined veteran Bunnies Malia Brown, Linda Marble, and Alyce Payne in constructing baskets, tucking in candy, and pricing and wrapping them. Jackie Goldfarb has done all these tasks and has the singular job of donning an Easter Bunny suit and visiting downtown Friday Harbor to generate interest in the sale. People might see her doing the bunny hop in the parking lot with a string of little kids or greeting town workers or meandering through stores spreading a little joy.
The guys have not escaped this swirl of activity – Rick Benedict (Anne’s extremely patient husband), Carroll Moen (also very patient), and Marc Brown (often amused) help with sign construction and deployment setting up tables building prizes and overseeing the sale’s finances.
The Easter Basket Sale began in 2014, shortly after PIMC opened. Peace Island Volunteers constructed 45 baskets that went on sale in the hospital lobby. That first batch sold out in three hours. The event has grown and in recent years moved to the very accommodating Mullis Center. For this 10th sale there will be more than 225 baskets (from $5 on up), baked goods, plants, a door prize guessing game, two raffles, and a silent auction featuring a quilt made by Barbara Snider and Bobby Hyland. This year’s sale at the Mullis Center is on Saturday, March 25. If previous events are an indicator, it’s worth it to be there when the doors open at 10 a.m.